Teen found guilty in Feb. shooting of local teacher

November 18, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

Assigning blame for a crime that touched everyone from the city's police chief to the youngest students at Malcolm X Elementary School, a Baltimore jury yesterday found a teen-ager guilty of shooting a kindergarten teacher in the face during a foiled carjacking in February.

Julie A. Lombardi, known as a "teacher's teacher," sobbed as the jury foreman read guilty verdicts on all counts facing 17-year-old Xavier Cornelius Wilson in the Feb. 1 shooting. Wilson could receive a prison term of up to 100 years at his sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 11 before Baltimore Circuit Judge Clifton J. Gordy.

After hearing testimony for three days, the jury deliberated for an hour and 50 minutes before reaching its decision. Mrs. Lombardi gasped and began weeping upon hearing the guilty verdict on the first count, assault with intent to murder.

Her sobs grew louder with each successive guilty verdict. "Oh, my dear God," she moaned, as her husband Marty comforted her.

One juror, a gray-haired woman, wiped tears from her eyes as the verdicts were read. Tears streamed down the face of Wilson's girlfriend. Wilson stood and stared at the jury, then shook his head.

Later, Mrs. Lombardi said, "I'd just like to say we're relieved that justice has been served."

While testifying under oath Tuesday, Mrs. Lombardi had been unable to state positively that Wilson was her attacker. But after the verdict she said, "I know in my heart he is the person who did this to me. I know his eyes."

Mrs. Lombardi, 42, was struck by one of at least five shots fired as she drove her 1988 Acura Legend on to Reisterstown Road after dismissal at the Northwest Baltimore school, where she has taught for more than two decades.

Her nose and upper jaw were broken, she lost all of her teeth, and her palate was shattered. She is scheduled for another bone graft in January to help rebuild her jaw, and is being treated by a psychiatrist for problems including post-traumatic stress syndrome.

After the shooting, students and their parents pondered the attack on a woman who taught generations of some families, gave her son's clothes to poor children and even allowed students to spend the night at her home. City police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier personally announced Wilson's arrest in the case, saying, "It's the kind of crime that really does touch you."

During the trial, defense lawyers presented no witnesses. In closing arguments, assistant public defender Kirk R. Osborn said police under pressure to solve a high-profile crime settled on Wilson as the culprit because he was a teen-age drug dealer. He said the state, which presented no physical evidence, had failed to prove its case.

Prosecutors built their case against Wilson on circumstantial evidence, including testimony from a woman who said she saw him hanging around the school throughout the day of the attack.

The boyfriend of Wilson's sister testified that he was going to sell Wilson a used Acura in need of repairs -- testimony designed to support the suggestion that the teen-ager wanted Mrs. Lombardi's car for parts. That witness testified that he was leaving his home near the school for a trip to a physical therapist when Wilson, within minutes of the shooting, insisted on joining him.

The key witness was Kevin Ross, who said he was waiting for a bus on Reisterstown Road when he saw Wilson near the Acura. Mr. Ross said that after boarding the bus he saw Wilson approaching the driver's side of the car, and that he heard shots fired.

Defense lawyers suggested that Mr. Ross fabricated his story to collect a reward of at least $2,000. But in his arguments to the jury, prosecutor Donald J. Giblin said Mr. Ross was not destitute enough to risk danger by framing a drug dealer for reward money. "If that's a new part-time job, you won't have any trouble getting one because there aren't a whole lot of people out there willing to do it," the prosecutor said.

The jury found Wilson guilty of assault with intent to murder, attempted armed robbery, attempted carjacking and three handgun violations.

Afterward, Mr. Lombardi called the crime, its aftermath and the trial "a lot of agony."

"There's some satisfaction in seeing him convicted, especially in light of how unremorseful he seemed throughout the trial, how inattentive he was . . . " Mr. Lombardi said. "It was just sickening to see him sitting there with no feeling. It was as if he was in traffic court."

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